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[00:00:11]

One day, not long ago, I went to visit the Lawrenceville School just outside Princeton, New Jersey.

[00:00:19]

A very old, prestigious private school, leafy campus, Gothic. This and that. I asked one of their deans. Could I come and meet with some students?

[00:00:29]

She said, yes. Does everyone have a piece of paper and pen? The dean put together a group of 20 kids we met in a conference room looking out on the campus lawn on a scale of one to 10. Don't put your name on it. I would like you to rank your happiness with the Lawrenceville School's current electoral process. Ten is. You think it's perfect. One is. You think it's maybe time to bring in Adam. Adam.

[00:00:59]

Adam Krok. Right. He was the reason I was there.

[00:01:03]

OK. Hi everyone. Thanks for coming. My name is Malcolm Gladwell. So you as you know, I am a writer and I have a podcast called Revisionist History. That's how the afternoon began. I said I wanted to run an idea by them, an idea. Field tested by this person, I just met Adam Cronkhite about talent and chance and how we choose others to lead us. And I would encourage you all to be if you think I'm crazy, you should say, Malcolm, you're crazy.

[00:01:41]

Maybe this idea could change a lot about what's wrong with the world right now, or maybe not. Revisionist history is about the overlooked and misunderstood. Usually I decide what belongs in either of those categories. This time I thought I'd just run Adam's idea by the students of Lawrenceville and let them decide. All this had to do with the way they elected their student council. I thought they should call a constitutional convention and start over. There is no right answer or wrong answer.

[00:02:15]

But I want to make a case for something and see how that possibly relates to the way you guys do things here at Lawrenceville. They listen to Adam's idea, argued about it for close to two hours. I'll be honest, I didn't think I'd get anywhere. The whole student council was there as well. All people who had profited from the Lawrenceville electorial status quo. And what was wrong with the status quo? In theory, not much.

[00:02:43]

Lawrenceville elected its leaders to the perfect democratic system. Campaign speeches, open elections. Their constitution might as well have been drawn up by the Founding Fathers. For all I know, one of the founding fathers went to Lawrenceville.

[00:02:58]

But then at the end of the afternoon, I said, OK, now that I've given you an alternative, how happy are you with what you have? Scale of one to 10. One is totally miserable with the status quo. And ten is delighted. Everything's perfect. I want to see your number.

[00:03:17]

Rip it off and hand it to me. I'll put it in my. We'll have them all here as the students handed in their little slips of paper. I glanced at a few. I was taken aback. Lawrenceville had the perfect democratic system. And upon reflection, upon exposure to a little of Adam Krunk writes subversion. There were a lot of students in that room who decided they didn't like it anymore. I told them I'd do an official tally later after I got home.

[00:03:49]

But there is some happiness in this room. And if they seem discontented with democracy in the gilded corridors of the Lawrenceville school, I can only imagine what it's like elsewhere. I first ran across Adam Cronkhite online. I was just rummaging around Google one day and what he was doing struck me as so interesting that I tracked him down Cold called him. Are you ever in New York City? This was November. He said, yes, he'd be there in February.

[00:04:29]

So we settled on a date and he came to my apartment. Young guy, beard, big backpack, hiking boots.

[00:04:37]

So tell me, actually, before we get into the crush, you. Where are you from? I'm from just outside of Syracuse, New York. Yeah.

[00:04:43]

So central New York. How did you end up in Bolivia?

[00:04:48]

Cochabamba, to be more precise, a mid-sized city in the mountains of central Bolivia. It turned out to be a long story that starts in Canada, across Lake Ontario from his hometown.

[00:05:00]

I remember where I was when I thought of the idea, like, you know, where were you? I was sure I was outside Victoria Hall walking on Queen's campus. And it was spring.

[00:05:14]

It was 2009. Adam was finishing college at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. He wanted to be a politician.

[00:05:22]

He had, as he puts it, a pretty big hero complex was going to and save the world in coming to terms with this idea, like, you know, the difficult to get to the heights of power without having to make some serious compromises externally, internally. And so then I was kind of like, OK, cool, what am I going to do? What are we going to do?

[00:05:45]

He began to read history. Political science, turned it over in his mind, looking for a big idea.

[00:05:51]

This is going to, you know, right all the wrongs. But I wasn't that involved in anything.

[00:05:57]

He was more of a dreamer than a doer. Adam graduated. The world was in a financial crisis. Occupy Wall Street was one of the protest movements that grew up in response.

[00:06:12]

There was a tent city of activists in Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan. Adam decided to go down to New York and join them. There were working panels and panel discussions, and one speaker in particular stuck with him. An activist from Bolivia who talked about an epic struggle there over water. Adam lived in Cincotti Park for five weeks until everyone was evicted.

[00:06:34]

Buddy NYPD, his experience with Occupy left him frustrated.

[00:06:42]

He understood what they were fighting for, but not how. There was no how in Occupy. They didn't have a plan that seemed like it could actually reform the systems that it failed during the financial crisis. Adam moved to Brooklyn, slept on someone's couch, and all the while kept escaping with his new friend from Bolivia, the water activist Marcella Olivola.

[00:07:04]

I kind of share with her that I was feeling a bit burnt out, disillusioned from what I was seeing. And she said, well, you come down to Bolivia and check out social movements.

[00:07:12]

So he did Syracuse to Kingston, to Zuccotti Park, to Bolivia. He made his way to Cochabamba. And there he met Marcella's brother, Oscar, who runs a foundation.

[00:07:22]

So is working with them for for a while. And then Oscar, one day incarnates, asked me, what are you into? You know, it's so sort of tone, both Democratic lotteries. And he had never heard concept. Democratic lotteries, that's Adam's idea, replace elections with lotteries. Adam tells Oscar about it. Oscar says we could tested in the schools.

[00:07:59]

They sign up a rural elementary school and two high schools, a night school and a regular high school. And Adam sells them on this new way of picking the student council.

[00:08:13]

Anyone who wanted to be in the lottery put their name forward. And then the whole school gathered in the gym to hear the results.

[00:08:20]

We wanted something that was very visual, that could generate buzz. And so they had some clay pots. And we used fava beans as a crop to grow their biggest beans you can find. And so we have two colors, green and purple. The students will put forward beans in the pot and cover it with Maguire in a traditional cloth. So it's from there. And those are some of visually beautiful.

[00:08:47]

If there were 200 students running for eight student council positions, they would put 192 green fava beans in the pot and eight purple ones. Then all the candidates would line up.

[00:09:02]

The kid reaches in. He says under the cloth. Grabs a bean. Yeah. Do they hold it up? If it's purple? They hold it up. If it's purple or green, they hold it. They're supposed to hold it up. So the school can say.

[00:09:19]

No campaigning, no speeches or posters, no glad handing, no ballots, no recounts. The whole selection was over in 20 minutes. Those who picked out the purple fava beans were on student council done. Now, I know that sounds like a crazy idea. You would never go for that, would you? What would you. Hello, hello, everyone. Malcolm Gladwell here. I'm here to say a few words about Ray Khan, wireless earbuds. Now, I know you've all heard the other earbuds.

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[00:10:47]

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[00:11:09]

Like a lot of you have some secrets when it comes to my browsing habits, like how much time I spend every day on car websites, incredible fuel to look at my browsing history, to be like, does this guy have a life?

[00:11:23]

If my fellow Pushkin, eight, sighed.

[00:11:25]

They'd be like, we're paying you for this. So do I. Do I go dark now?

[00:11:31]

For a lot of people, going dark means incognito mode. But let me tell you something. Incognito mode does not actually hide your activity. It doesn't matter what mode you use or how many times you clear your browsing history.

[00:11:43]

Your Internet service provider can still see every single website you've ever visited.

[00:11:50]

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[00:11:56]

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[00:12:05]

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[00:12:29]

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[00:12:36]

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[00:12:52]

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[00:12:59]

Well to learn more. Adam Krunk, right, learned three important things from his work on school lotteries in Bolivia. I'm going to call them Cronkite's laws. None of them, I think, are obvious beforehand. At least they were not obvious to him. First numbers, as in number of candidates, typically, what percentage of the kids want to be part of a lottery? It varies by the school. Yeah, it varies by the school.

[00:13:30]

And so at a nice high school, you know, these kids often work even on Saturdays like they got a full schedule. So we would usually get between 20 and 30 students who are volunteering for like twelve spots.

[00:13:45]

Right. So it wasn't a huge, huge turnout. And then at the rural K through eight school, it was literally like every student that could participate participated in every lottery. And then, you know, at another school we worked out later on was a urban high school.

[00:14:04]

But in the morning, you know, there you had at least half of the school after the student council members finished their time in office.

[00:14:14]

Adam always asks a simple question, would you have run if we had done things the old way with campaigns and speeches about three quarters who say no right away?

[00:14:26]

Why? Why do they say no? Well, they say nobody would have voted for me.

[00:14:31]

I was new in the school, didn't have a lot of friends. You know, I would not want to run a campaign, you know, and asked people to vote for me. You know, it's the things that you can kind of guess are impediments.

[00:14:44]

They like serving in office. They just didn't want to run for office. The demands of the campaign were filtering out all kinds of people who would otherwise have been very interested in student council politics. Overwhelmingly, those who win the lottery one year, in fact, run again the next.

[00:15:03]

So, yeah, they tend to climb back up. But when we ask them, you know, would be normal elections, would you done it? The majority say no.

[00:15:10]

What's interesting is the extent to which. Running for an office and running an office are two very, very different things. And someone may be both capable and interested in. Running an office, but have no interest in running for. That's the first law in a democracy.

[00:15:37]

Elections are supposed to encourage participation, but they don't. They discourage. Lotteries, encourage participation.

[00:15:48]

OK, Krunk writes. Second law, when you choose your student government by lottery, you see a change in the kinds of things the government actually does. In my high school, the student council basically organized dances not at Adam Schools in Cochabamba at the night school, for example. The student government tackled all kinds of issues. Human trafficking is a big problem there. And so they organized a workshop on human trafficking that had like a theatrical production and breakout groups and stuff they've got in first aid kits for the schools.

[00:16:23]

The schools don't tend to have them. They've organized educational field trips.

[00:16:28]

The student council put together soccer tournaments and poetry competitions. They opened a library school, didn't have one.

[00:16:35]

And so they solicited donations from institutions and DVD and they were able to get a computer donated from the Ministry of Education. And they set it up and they ran it.

[00:16:48]

They also created their own student I.D. card because that school didn't have I.D. cards and didn't have uniforms. And since they went to schools. The transportation workers didn't believe that they were students since charge charging double. So that was the first thing that they worked on. I was like party number one for all the students was we wants to an I.D. card. And so they made their own and and distributed those to Adam. The crucial thing about that long list of accomplishments was the range of things the students were interested in.

[00:17:21]

What do you mean by that?

[00:17:22]

It's a more diverse group. They come from different social circles versus typically, at least in Bolivia. You know, it'll be like a group of friends who runs for election. Right. And so I have similar perspective on the school and what school might need and or what they're going to offer to win people's votes, which is typically more the case. And so a group that's brought the group together through a lottery. None of the students in Studen government know each other prior to that first meeting.

[00:17:52]

And they often have very divergent interests. You have, you know, derksen and artists and, you know, like just kind of the whole gamut, the whole gamut.

[00:18:02]

Democracies are supposed to be the best system for ensuring that a whole gamut of interests are represented in government. Cronkite's second law says that's not true. Not if the government is drawn from the same narrow band of society year after year. It's the lottery that gives you a truly representative sample of leaders. After the success of a few experiments, Adam helped set up a non-profit called Democracy in Practice to work with student governments in Bolivia. I can't tell you the number of times that, you know, fresh off of a lottery selection.

[00:18:37]

We have the first couple of orientation meetings and my co-founder Raul and I will come out and we'll be we'll be walking together and we'll be saying, oh, you know, so and so. They're going to be a really important part of this team. You know, they present themselves where they speak, where they're confident and they don't even finish the term of office.

[00:19:00]

This brings us to Cronkhite third law, maybe the most important of all. Nobody knows anything. The number of times that we've walked out of those meetings and been worried about a particular student who seemed really unplugged, you know, just kind of closed, body language, uncomfortable, didn't participate much. And we said we've got our work cut out with that student. And, you know, they within a couple of weeks, they figure out what's expected of them, how they can plug in.

[00:19:31]

And by the end of the term, they're even voted by their peers as one of the most important members of the team.

[00:19:38]

And so that's experience we've had over and over again. And I still kind of get fooled by that. Now, the charisma that that certain students who have the confidence of, too. So the prediction mechanism we're using for predicting who will be a good leader is just flawed. So you say, yeah. Yeah. Even you even you sometimes fall into this trap of of thinking that because a kid presents herself really well and is well-spoken and charismatic, that she's gonna be a good leader.

[00:20:13]

Yeah. It's really difficult to to counter that bias. And obviously, not every student who's confident, charismatic, you know, has it as a big ego and can't work well with others and doesn't show up. You know, we've had we've had several students who fit that mold and were were great teammates. But generally, it's a lot easier to to teach a Shi'a student or student who's not too popular. It's a lot easier to teach them to overcome those fears and kind of out a few more leadership skills to their their set than it is to to teach some of the more confident, charismatic students to kind of set aside their ego and be a good member of a team and not try to steal the limelight.

[00:21:03]

And listened to others and that dominate conversations.

[00:21:06]

Democratic elections are based on the idea that voters are good predictors, that they can look at a slate of candidates and accurately predict who will be the most effective leader. That's why we have campaigns and speeches and debates to help us make that prediction. But in Bolivia, Adam and his team discovered that people are lousy predictors. The teachers who often aren't in the meetings are just constantly fooled by, you know, and when they come out and say, oh, you know, that student, what a great leader, you know, and they're not even aware that the rest of the student government's about to kick them out.

[00:21:40]

You know, they've had enough of some of their behavior in one student who got picked in a lottery. And during the lottery, I had a teacher turned to me and under his breath say that students are not going to work out. You know, I found out afterwards who's the one student from his class of 30 students who had failed the previous year. And he was one of the one of the more kind of outstanding examples that we've had. He just you really love to work on meaningful projects and be a part of a team.

[00:22:15]

Now I know what you're thinking. It's Bolivia. What works for teenagers in Cochabamba doesn't necessarily work for the rest of us. Apples and oranges and all that. Except after being schooled by Adam, I began to see versions of his logic everywhere.

[00:22:35]

Hello, this is Mike Lourd, NIH. Delighted that you found time to chat with me. I just ran across your papers on peer review and citations and found them absolutely fascinating. And they fit very much in a theme I'm exploring in my podcast this season. So I wanted to chat.

[00:22:56]

Michael Lour is deputy director of Extramural Research at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

[00:23:03]

If I had to make a list of the most important Americans you've never heard of Loures in the top 10, he's way, way up in what you might call an I mean, this in the nicest possible way. The biomedical deep state, his office hands out around 30 billion dollars a year in research grants to scientists across the United States. Basically, if you walk to any biology or chemistry department or any medical school or any medical research institute, Loures office is what's paying for it.

[00:23:34]

So every year his office gets eighty thousand grant applications from around the country. They only have money to fund about 20 percent of those. So they hold the equivalent of an election. Each of those applications gets assigned to a small group of reviewers. The reviewers vote for the ones they like and throw throughout the rest. Then those finalists are turned over to a second group of voters.

[00:23:58]

The reviewers who are assigned a grant will give a brief presentation about the grant itself and what they thought were the strengths and weaknesses. This is then followed by an open discussion after the discussion is complete. There is then a scoring.

[00:24:15]

So first round is you're throwing out the bottom. The bottom half. That's right. That's right.

[00:24:20]

Second round is your scoring the remainder and how what? What is the score? The score is on a scale of what to Waterhouse's score represented.

[00:24:28]

This is like golf. So a lower score is better as a score of 10 would be perfect. That means that as far as the reviewers are concerned, they they can't think of anything better. A score of 90 would represent the absolute worst.

[00:24:44]

Those scores are predictions about how good a scientist's proposal is in exactly the same way that the choices voters make are predictions about how good a leader a candidate will be. Cronkite's third law says that voters aren't very good at that prediction. So Lauer wonders, what about the NIH, his grant reviewers? Are we any good at it? Does the proposal that got a perfect 10 from the voters at grant approval time actually end up being the most influential or innovative research?

[00:25:14]

Once it's finished. Laura looks around. He can't find any definitive answer to that question. This peer review process that you've just described has been in place at NIH for how long?

[00:25:26]

Seventy five years. Twenty five years. So we had a situation where we have a process in place for many, many years. Seventy five years, which is from an pinnacle perspective, unexamined.

[00:25:39]

Well, that's that's right. So Lauer says, let's take a look.

[00:25:45]

His method is simple. The standard way that science measures the value of a bit of research is how often it's cited by other scientists in their work. So if I spend five years working on an experiment and no one mentions that experiment again, it would be considered a failure. And if it's mentioned a thousand times, it's considered a home run. So what is the correlation between the score of your grant application and the number of citations your work gets? Once it's finished?

[00:26:17]

I think, you know, this is going. We did not find a strong correlation between the peer review score and the citation metrics of the other subsequently funded grant.

[00:26:32]

Now it's worth pointing something out loud doesn't go into this thinking that the NIH is going to be subject to Cronkite's third law. Nobody knows anything. After all, Lauer is not talking about adolescence judging other adolescents. He's talking about distinguished scientists judging the potential of other distinguished scientists.

[00:26:53]

We had assumed that we would find a reasonably strong correlation between the peer review score and the great productivity. Really?

[00:27:03]

Yeah. I. I had assumed that you went in skeptical. No. But then again. Exactly. As I said, if we knew what we were doing, we wouldn't call it research krunk.

[00:27:17]

Right. Third law applies outside of Cochabamba. It applies even at the National Institutes of Health to the process by which billions of dollars of research money is distributed. It's not Cronkite's third law.

[00:27:32]

It's krunk rights, universal third law. When Lauer publishes his research, lots of other scientists look at his results and say, if he's right, our electoral system in science is broken. I mean, why bother voting on grants at all? People throughout the scientific community start talking like Adam starts saying, let's just do a lottery. Let the reviewers make the first cut and get rid of the obvious losers. Then put the rest in a hat. My favorite article ran in The Wall Street Journal by two microbiologists, Ferrick Fang and Arturo Cosset, of all entitled Taking the Powerball Approach to Funding Medical Research Powerball, for goodness sake, with the subtitle Winning a government grant is already a crapshoot.

[00:28:26]

Making it official by running a lottery would be an improvement.

[00:28:30]

There is a famous line from Niels Bore and also attributed to Yogi Berra. That prediction is very hard, especially about the future.

[00:28:39]

By its very nature, sciences are unpredictable. And essentially what we are asking scientists to do is to make predictions about something which is itself inherently unpredictable.

[00:28:53]

Well, so is leadership. Leadership is even more unpredictable in scientific merit. So why do we insist on making predictions about something which is inherently unpredictable along these lines? I did something fun two days ago. I went to a to the Lawrenceville school like a fancy boarding school in New Jersey. And I spoke to a group of kids, seniors and juniors, a random group of kids, but including the student council and sitting US president. And I told them about your work.

[00:29:28]

Describe it to them. And I said, you know, at Lawrenceville, you have a very similar situation. This is a preselected group of highly able people, which you use essentially a peer review process to decide who was eligible for the student council. Right. They have a vote. Yes. And I said, well, given the fact that Dr. Loures work suggests that we're bad at making those kinds of predictions at the very top, would you consider a change in the way you elect studen council and student council president?

[00:29:58]

Yeah, I can imagine.

[00:29:59]

Laughs No, on the contrary. As you'll discover, the students at the Lawrenceville school did not laugh at this idea at all. So tell me, what's the name of your dog, Max? He's what kind of dog? He's a Labrador retriever.

[00:30:23]

Zip recruiter asked me to look for real stories of real people looking to make real hires. So I went over to my neighbor's house to talk about Max.

[00:30:32]

So you've been in lockdown now for how long with Max?

[00:30:36]

We've been in lockdown now since March. And how much time he spent with other dogs during that time? Zero. So he's really just turning into another member of the gym?

[00:30:46]

Yes. He thinks he's human. He has an attitude of a human and he's very clingy, like he's just killing you. Walks he walks around us everywhere we go.

[00:30:55]

You go to the bathroom. He wants to come with me.

[00:30:58]

Would you say he's now the most neurotic member of your friends?

[00:31:01]

He's definitely the most neurotic member of you given food. He's like mad and want that.

[00:31:06]

And like, he tried to push it because he pushed around with his ball. It pushes his food around with its paw. He's giving an attitude. He demands things as he lost interest in rabbits.

[00:31:17]

He's lost interest in rabbits.

[00:31:19]

He's lost interest in squirrels. And you're asking for a lot of screen time.

[00:31:23]

Max is asking for a lot of human time. I'm just exhausted. I mean, how how much can I serve this dog?

[00:31:31]

What I would really love to do is to hire a dog for my dog.

[00:31:36]

Like you want a companion item for you. Exactly. Let's be honest.

[00:31:42]

ZIP recruiter can solve lots of hiring problems, but they can't help my neighbor.

[00:31:47]

I don't think ZIP recruiter works for hiring companion animals for animals, but for everything else.

[00:31:55]

Oh, absolutely.

[00:31:57]

The world is hopefully getting back to work safely and zip recruiter is here to help. For just about any industry, from health care to manufacturing to business services, ZIP recruiter makes hiring faster and easier. How zip recruiters smart matching technology finds people with the right experience for your job and actively invites them to apply.

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[00:32:31]

Try it now for free at zip recruiter dot com slash Gladwell. That's zip recruiter dot com slash Gladwell. I don't know if you've ever heard the old adage, the minute a company moves into a fancy new headquarters, it's all over.

[00:32:48]

Is the surest sign they've peaked, gotten fat and lazy.

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We're two years old and we're about to move into these insanely fancy new offices. Twenty five employees and we're already on this massive real estate ego trip.

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And who's leading the trip? I am.

[00:33:06]

I go to our CEO, Jacob Weisberg, and I say I would need a huge budget for furniture because we're like the Tiphanie a podcast studios.

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Only the best.

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I decided I'm going to get it all that article dot com because they sent me some stuff.

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The freebie was gorgeous. So I'm thinking school first class.

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I need stylish mid century modern chairs, elegant desks, some patio furniture for the exquisite Walding garden, Scandinavian industrial bohemian.

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So I go an article dot com and I come away devastated. You know why? Because it's not expensive.

[00:33:42]

I'm on a power trip. Our CEO is giving me a massive budget and there's no way I can spend it all at Oracle.

[00:33:48]

What's going on? Turns out article has no middlemen, no showroom's, no salespeople, no retail markup, which allows them to keep their quality super high and the prices super low, so low that you can get anything you wanted.

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Article except about the fast, affordable shipping is available across the USA and Canada and is free on orders over nine hundred and ninety nine. All in stock items are delivered in two weeks. This article is offering our listeners fifty dollars off your first purchase of one hundred dollars or more. Go to article dot com slash Gladwell. The discount will be automatically apply to checkout. That's article dot com slash Gladwell to get fifty dollars off your first purchase of a hundred dollars or more.

[00:34:37]

Article. Prices so low you can get everything you want except an ego trip. Tortes comes to something you'd ever think of trying here. Do you think Bolivia is different than New Jersey?

[00:34:57]

The students at the Lawrenceville school take the argument. I brought them very seriously. They have lots of questions.

[00:35:04]

The democratic process at Lawrenceville is steeped in tradition. They're a little leery of leaving the process up to chance, especially for the top student body president.

[00:35:14]

You don't want to have to go to a first school meeting and have a president who's a little bit shaky because the first time you go to school meeting, you're expecting the freshman to be excited about the school year ahead and the seniors, everyone in between to be excited at the school year had you don't want to have to learn with them.

[00:35:31]

The students are crammed into a small conference room. Some sit at a long table. Others stand along the walls. The headmaster and one of the school's deans stand by the door. A microphone is passed to whomever wants to speak. This is a student named Zulay.

[00:35:47]

We want to have someone initially who is a figurehead who can immediately be put into us. Stressful situation of talking to the entire school and basically the entire faculty perform at the high school.

[00:36:00]

One of the president's most important functions at Lawrenceville is the school meeting that happens in the auditorium every Thursday morning. Forty five minutes. All the students show up. It's a central part of the school culture. Hi, I'm Quinn.

[00:36:15]

I think that a good public speaker is someone who is willing to be vulnerable with the audience, which is also why I think that being a good public speaker and being a sociable, energetic person is really important in being a good leader, because when you're vulnerable onstage, like Taylor Year rapped on stage, which was awesome and got us really excited today.

[00:36:38]

Lawrence Villes, current student body president. He's standing at the back of the room. Later when we chat, I learned he's half Nigerian, half Kenyan, grew up in London.

[00:36:49]

I've noticed that we have not heard from the current president student council product before.

[00:36:58]

The TSA is the only one in the room wearing a suit. A little bit of his English formality.

[00:37:04]

Tell me why you think you were elected. Why do I think? I think a large part of why I was elected is the fact that I am someone who has made sure that I am very present on campus. I speak to as many people as possible. I think I'm known for generally being someone who does speak to people and looks to make change and help people. Did you really rap in your speech? Yes. Oh, my my closing speech.

[00:37:25]

The person I was running. Yes, he was a phenomenal speaker. He he partakes in theatre. So he was not as good. He was definite. He he he was he's actually I would actually say he's a better public speaker than I was.

[00:37:37]

So I knew that I had the great public speakers, by the way, do that. They claim that others are better public speaking. Oh, no.

[00:37:43]

But genuinely, he he is someone who who who speaks on stage like he is authentic. So he is his great upon speaking. So I knew that he was going to come, in essence, all guns blazing and produce a phenomenal speech. So I knew that there was some way in which I had to show that I am a quote unquote fun guy and so that the student body could relate to.

[00:38:03]

So I decided to go out with a rap in my closing statement.

[00:38:07]

I have to say, I really like to say he's incredibly thoughtful and charismatic. My first thought after talking to him was, would I have voted for him? I think I would have. But then I thought, aren't I making the same mistake that Adam Cronkhite warned about? Am I unfairly ruling out other students who might be just as capable of being a great student body president? Back when I met with Adam, right? He talked about this one student at one of his schools in Cochabamba.

[00:38:36]

What happened to him? Like what happened?

[00:38:38]

I really should have played this tape for the Lawrenceville students. He just he started off, he looked bored. He looked uncomfortable. You know, and just, like, slouched in his chair, didn't know if he was listening and stuff. The moment that they started to do some of that work, he just would. Wake up and matings basically in and start bottom line things, he said. I can go, you know, I can go take the letter down to the mayor's office.

[00:39:05]

I can go do this. I can go to that and he'd do it.

[00:39:08]

You follow through. You know, and that sometimes is in short supply when you're working with teenagers, you know? And he really liked to do those types of things and he'd follow through. And so then people started to count on him and they realized they could count on him. And he took on a lot of responsibility.

[00:39:26]

Adam Cronkhite also told me about another student named Richard New in school. Completely introverted, who then blossomed and turned out to be one of the most effective student council members.

[00:39:37]

Remember walking with him after the first meetings and I told them, you know, this is your opportunity. Everyone else in the group is looking to you as a leader. And he stopped dead in his tracks. It looks at me all confused.

[00:39:52]

He says, I'm not a leader. I'm not always up front. And "demandando", like, dominating the conversation.

[00:40:01]

And I tell them, like, that's not that's not our conception of leadership. You know, leaders as someone who develops leadership in other people, works well on team. And I think this is the key. The larger lesson behind Cronkite's three laws, it isn't just that we're bad at making predictions. It's worse than that.

[00:40:23]

It's that our whole system of prediction is screwed up because we require that our candidates perform for us. We'll never get the riches of the world or the student who everyone thought would be a dud. Neither of them could win an election. Could they hit slouch in their chairs and look bored and uncomfortable? They get blown off the stage, even though both those kids could end up being great leaders in their own right. In that room at Lawrenceville, there were Indian and Korean and Chinese and African and African-American and white American kids.

[00:40:55]

They were from all over. Some were funny. Some were serious. Some sounded like they were 45 years old. Some seem very young. They were as varied and idiosyncratic as any group of teenagers anywhere would be. So why, when it came to their leader to take cling to a system that ensured that only one type, the performer could win? Now, even if you accept those arguments, there's still the problem that a lottery doesn't feel right.

[00:41:27]

If you win an NIH grant under the old system, you get to walk around and say, my grant was selected over thousands of others. It feels earned. If you win an election, you get to say the people chose me and the people get to say I chose her.

[00:41:45]

My name's Frankie.

[00:41:46]

And I think another aspect of the sort of arbitrarily picked lottery, like it's a fact. I think it's worth thinking about its effect on like the students themselves and their kind of response in terms of their lack of control or say over who is decided to be the leader.

[00:42:10]

But here's what I think Adam Cronkhite would have said to Frankie. You can't just pay attention to the legitimacy of the end result. You have to pay attention to the legitimacy of the process.

[00:42:23]

Suppose we did this hidden you know, we chosen a big set people and then chosen our president by lottery. What percent of American presidents would have been female 50 50.

[00:42:35]

So, wait, you guys, twice I've heard this argument that by in depends on elections. But when it comes to presidents, there is it seems to be the opposite is true that if we had a lottery or a whole lot of people right now who feel disenfranchised would feel enfranchised.

[00:42:55]

It was at that point that a sophomore named Summer suggested a hybrid plan, kind of like the Lawrenceville version of the idea that has been floated for the NIH. Have voters make a first cut? Then pick the final winners by lottery.

[00:43:09]

Who has that potential to learn and to grow and is open to other viewpoints, whereas someone who is already stuck in their ways, summer laid out her idea, then stopped, looked around the room.

[00:43:22]

Great summer. Don't don't give up. This is. This is. I love this. Keep going. So walk me through. I'm going to make you dean of students for the day, by the way.

[00:43:31]

The fact that Summers stopped like that while exploring her idea. That's exactly the point of Adam Cronkite's literary work with students in Bolivia, because the electoral system does not reward the candidate who, midway through explaining her idea during a debate, pauses to gather feedback and take the temperature of the room and reflect on whether what she's saying is actually what she wants to say. No. The system rewards the candidate who blunders ahead, convinced of their own brilliance. I want more candidates like Summer keep going.

[00:44:04]

So describe to me how this works. I like this idea a lot.

[00:44:07]

So I think the preliminary part, like I said, would be an anonymous procedure where people could prepare a piece on any piece they wanted, whether it be a project, an essay, a video. And then from there, I was thinking that there could be a lottery system from there, because at that point, you know, the people chosen are ones you're equally interested in representing the community.

[00:44:33]

With so summer when a call is the summer proposal. So what you're saying is suppose all the students look at these 50 projects and then you're saying that they would vote on the ones they liked the best? Yes.

[00:44:48]

And then from that pool, you would do potentially a lottery. Yes. Yes.

[00:44:54]

This idea now that they had thought about their electoral system and talked about the alternatives, how happy were they with the status quo?

[00:45:07]

I wanted to vote to have a show on a show of hands. Scale of one to ten. Ten minute happy one meant disillusion.

[00:45:14]

What should it be? What should it be? Because I'm a let you know and I want to hold you to this.

[00:45:18]

And I got them to agree that six should be the threshold. Anything less than six. So five. Anything less than that.

[00:45:25]

And they should consider calling their own constitutional convention and rewriting the rules.

[00:45:30]

Raise your hands.

[00:45:31]

Wake up. Wake up. Wake up. Wake up. I carry the day books. All right. I'll let you know. Thank you all.

[00:45:41]

I went home and counted their average happiness score with the electoral status quo. Five point three, a tried and tested democratic process honed over generations at one of America's most prestigious private schools. And when you ask the students even for a moment to think about how well it works, they say we're not so sure. Oh, I forgot to mention one thing. Kind of a big thing.

[00:46:10]

So do you think colleges should I really want to push this discussion was maybe colleges should choose their students by lottery?

[00:46:21]

I think there's a lot to be said for that. Oh, you like it? You like that idea? McKenna I think I do. I'm not prepared to give you a full answer on it.

[00:46:31]

You go right now, H-E. They were mostly juniors and seniors, either on the cusp of the endless college application process or in the middle of it and college selection. Is the student body president problem times ten? Right. The student runs for a highly coveted position. The university makes its prediction. But if NIH reviewers can't predict the best scientists based on grant proposals and if voters pass over perfectly good candidates because they slouch in the corner. How on earth can universities pick the best students based on college applications?

[00:47:06]

There are much, much bigger fish to fry here. Yeah, I like it. I like the idea a lot.

[00:47:13]

Another revolutionary, I was suddenly so giddy with excitement that I didn't catch his name. Lanky kid, big head of curly hair.

[00:47:21]

Do you think that the reason you and I think like so much is that our hair is similar? I think so. I was a call for another vote on support for college admission. Lotteries. Shorthands.

[00:47:36]

Most of you. Well, half the revolutionaries are not at the gates of Lawrenceville.

[00:47:41]

They're inside the gates. Next stop for Adam Krunk, right? New Jersey. Revisionist history is produced by Mia LaBelle and Lee Mingus, astute with Chip Smith Halloween. And on a name. Our editor is Julia Partan. Original Scoring by Louis Scarer. Mastering by Flon Williams. Fact checking by Beth Johnson. A special thanks to the Pushkin crew. Head of fame. Carly Migliore. A Caning, Maggie Taylor, Jason Gambril and of course, LFA check voiceprints.

[00:48:31]

Oh, and think thanks to the staff and students of the Lawrenceville School for a really fun afternoon. I'm Malcolm. It would have been so much clever if I had had them to have a lottery to decide on whether to have a lottery that would have been so Medda and great. But I missed that opportunity.